Now that the ink has dried on a million think-pieces about millennials in the workplace, there’s a new age group graduating from college and hitting the pavement to look for employment: Generation Z. Widely hailed as a more entrepreneurial and collaborative generation than their predecessors, these new entrants to the workforce have a lot of potential to offer.
As with all demographic cohorts, the broad descriptors for Generation Z will not apply to every person born between the mid-90s and early aughts. However, there have been some dramatic world events and cultural touch points that have shaped this age group’s prevailing worldview. Since most companies will start to see members of Generation Z filter into the workplace in the next several years, here’s what they can expect:
Unlike their older siblings, Millennials, who spent their childhood in the relative peace and prosperity of the 90s, Gen Z has grown up in a less secure environment. Even the oldest members of this age group were quite young when the 9/11 terror attacks occurred, and they witnessed the difficulties their parents and olders siblings faced professionally as a result of the Great Recession. As a result, they’re much more risk-averse, and are likely to prioritize practical concerns over passion projects.
This generation, even more than their Millennial counterparts, are true digital natives. Internet access in homes has been ubiquitous for most of their lives, and the rise of smartphones coincided with their elementary and middle school years. This gives them a leg up on older generations when it comes to the adoption of new technology in the workplace, and makes them an asset for companies looking to innovate.
As with millennials, flexible work arrangements are a huge draw for Generation Z. However, while this may mean the option to work from home a few days a week for millennials, for Generation Z, the ideal generally looks different. Since they’re accustomed to constant contact and access, they are less likely to draw boundaries around their personal and professional lives. That also makes them more likely to prefer total untethered freedom when it comes to where and how they get their work done. Insistence on work days in the office may feel arbitrary to people in this age range, so when at all possible, it’s a good idea to allow for remote work.
Generation Z expects to enter the workforce with a higher salary than past generations, and they expect to have a stronger, more collaborative relationship with their employers and managers. Because of their practicality, however, they know this means they’ll be expected to work harder and prove their value early on, which they’ve been prepared to do for much of their formative years.
Putting it all together
What does all of this mean for employers who are about to start hiring members of Generation Z in entry-level positions? Overall, the outlook about these young self-starters is rosy. Their employers will generally find them, as a group, to be more driven and entrepreneurial than their predecessors who have started working in the past few years. Employers should plan to be more open-minded about work arrangements and should prepare to pay more for entry-level positions, but they’ll likely find this investment to pay off in the level of talent it will attract.
However, it’s also important to remember to take these prognostications with a grain of salt. By no means is every person born between 1995 and the early 2000s a self-starter with a great work ethic. They are, after all, very young and new to the workforce. With some freedom to learn and good mentorship opportunities, though, they have the potential to bring a positive new energy and innovative ideas to the workplace.